It was just past midnight, toward the end of Sam’s watch. Perhaps she was just tired, perhaps the quiet of the planet had lulled her into a sense of security, but when the silence was broken by a soft crunch in the sand it startled her more than she thought it ought to. It was probably just one of the boys that turned in their sleep, she silently berated herself.
Then she heard another crunch, and now she could clearly place it coming from a hill east of the camp. Sam snapped to attention, bringing up her weapon toward the sound and straining her eyes to see into the green-tinted shadows. She desperately hoped it wasn’t trouble. The colonel isn’t going to like it if it’s trouble. Unfortunately she, and the colonel, was in for disappointment as the silhouette of a man appeared atop of the hill. As he crouching drew nearer, and was joined by several others, Sam was able to make out the familiar details of Jaffa armor.
“Colonel! Teal'c! Daniel! We’ve got company!”
The three men came awake in a flurry of activity, Jack and Teal'c with goggles on and ready to fire within a moment. Daniel was a little slower and as the bullets and plasma blasts began flying he was still fumbling groggily with his night vision goggles.
“To the ‘gate!” Jack hollered over the noise and the four of them scrambled towards the canyon. In the process of trying to bring his pack and fire at enemies he couldn’t see all at the same time, Daniel lost the grip on his goggles and they went tumbling into the sand. He dove to make a grab for them, but the searing plasma blasts from the enemies’ staff weapons forced him to retreat without them.
There was no time for the rope. Teal'c descended first and caught Sam who dropped the last few meters when she climbed after him. Daniel went next. He didn’t bother to tell Jack that he didn’t have his goggles before he eased himself over the edge and blindly felt for a foothold. His toes found an edge, and he put his weight on it to lower himself down. Without his goggles however, he didn’t see that the edge was nothing more than a thin shard. When the frail edge was faced with carrying his weight it broke, and gravity ripped him from the cliff. Time seemed to stop as he began to fall. Terrified he yelled out for Jack, who reached for his hand just a moment too late. For a fraction of a second Daniel felt suspended in the air, before the ground rushed up to meet him.
Daniel’s sudden disappearance below the cliff edge hit Jack like a punch in the gut. Why does it always have to be him? Jack ambled down the cliff wall as quickly as he could, immediately sinking knee deep in the sand at the bottom of the canyon. At least he’ll have had a soft landing.
Daniel lay where he had fallen, obviously unconscious. To Jack’s eyes he seemed to float on top of the sand, his back in a slight arch. Probably a trick of the eyes, adrenalin, and the night vision. Makes it hard to see clearly. Jack’s eyes flitted to the canyon ridge, surprised to see that the enemy Jaffa weren’t already climbing down after them. He assumed they wouldn’t be far behind though, and thus every second counted.
“Carter,” he barked.”Check Daniel over and get him on his feet. We need to keep moving. The Jaffa will be down here any minute, unless they’re gonna try to cut us off at the ‘gate. Either way we need to hustle.”
Sam was already kneeling down by Daniel’s side, running through the motions that were far too familiar to all of them. Second time in one day. Damn it, Daniel!
Jack froze; his pacing and ranting quelled by the urgent tone in Sam’s voice. Their eyes met and he registered a severity in her gaze that chilled his heart.
“What?” His tone was sharp, but irritation was already giving way to worry. He never got used to that feeling, regardless of – or precisely because of – how many times he’d experienced it in connection to that infernally clumsy geek. Sam hesitated before answering, making the churning in his stomach rev up yet another level. This can’t be good.
“I don’t think he’ll be able to get up, sir. I think his back is hurt. He landed on an exposed rock.”
Jack bit back the flood of expletives gathering in his mind, and settled for a remotely reasonable tone as he spoke again.
“We need to get out of here. Can we move him?”
“Preferably not…” Sam silenced when she saw the look in the colonel’s eyes. Not moving Daniel wasn’t really an option, it said. Jack wasn’t actually asking if but rather how. “We need to be careful not to disturb his spine; if we dislodge it we could make the injury worse.” She thought for a moment. “Maybe we can make a travois to transport him on.”
“What’s a trawya?”
“A travois – it’s a sled-like construction used to transport heavy loads, by Native Americans for instance.”
“Now we’re talking. How do we make this tra…sled-thingy?”
“Well, if we had two staff weapons we could use them as poles and make a bed out of our jackets.”
“Good. Do we have two staff weapons?”
“What have we got then?” After their trip through irritation and worry Jack’s emotions were now arriving at exasperation. Why is it never easy?!
“As a matter of fact we do have two staff weapons.” Teal'c’s sudden but enlightening statement held a tint of amusement, only mottled by the severity of the situation. “I relived one of our attackers of his weapon during the battle.”
“Way to go, Teal'c!” Jack exclaimed as his feelings made a one eighty and rushed up towards hope. With the necessary parts on hand constructing the travois didn’t take long. The wide back ends of the staff weapons would prove to be excellent for sliding across the soft sand, so they positioned those ends down as they crafted a bed out of their uniform jackets and carefully placed Daniel’s prone form upon it.
“Okay, Teal'c, you take Daniel’s P90 instead of your staff and take point. I’ll pull the sled, and Carter will cover our precious behinds.”